Le Grand Dérangement- debate about the great Acadian upheaval

NEW BRUNSWICK, Canada–  Although historians can disagree about who initiated the original order to deport the Acadians during the 1755, le grand dérangement, the fact is, the French settlements in Nova Scotia had precedence over the English, who forcibly evacuated them. It was a time of terrible turmoil that causes the history of the incident to inspire continual debate.

Two Acadian historical references

Over the years, I have collected numerous references that describes the history of the Acadians.

In my opinion, the Acadians’ precedence is similar to the special considerations awarded to Native First Nations peoples. It just seems logical to me. The ancestors of the cruelly displaced Acadian people should have a status to acknowledge the generations that suffered because of their families’ displacements.

Le Grand Dérangement is the common bond shared by the ancestors of the Acadians, regardless of where in the world they now live. In fact, the expulsion is the driving force behind The Great Acadian Reunion known as Congres Mondial, held every four years.

Because the incident is central to the history of the Acadians, it is important for people of all cultures to know how to describe it.

Canadian Broadcasting (CBC) reports that a committee will be looking at how to adequately define the brutal 1755, Acadian expulsions from Nova Scotia. Moreover, the committee will be charged with making a statement about whether the horrible forced evacuations of the French settlers by the British was an act of genocide.  The Société de l’Acadie du Nouveau-Brunswick is forming the study committee.  This article was brought to my attention by Rhea Cote-Robbins, a writer, artist and Franco-American researcher.

Acadian Cross in Grand Pre Nova Scotia

Grand Pre Acadian Cross monument in Nova Scotia

Undoubtedly, the intent of the great upheaval of the Acadians was to eliminate them from Nova Scotia. They were purposefully herded up by the British. They were made to be refugees and then were “scattered to the winds”, in boats (the term attributed by Carl A. Brasseaux).

Moreover, the Acadians’ properties were burned to the ground to erase any record of where they lived or had owned land. Children were separated from their parents.  Maine poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow drew international attention to the horrible forced family separations in his epic story about “Evangeline“.

Nevertheless, many historians and history writers who I have met are reluctant to call the deportations “genocide”.

In fact, I have even witnessed some people becoming agitated about the use of the term genocide, when describing le grand dérangement. Yet, those same skeptics, and antagonists to the description of the Acadian expulsions as genocide, cannot give the incendiary incident any other name.

In fact,  the deportation continues to demand closure, reports the CDC. “The hope is that the new committee can settle on appropriate language to describe the expulsion. Chantal Richard, a professor in the University of New Brunswick’s French department, said the time is right for an in depth look at the question. ‘It’s important for many people, specifically Acadians, because it may allow for some closure,’ said Richard, who is also an Acadian. ‘And it’s something that we seem to keep coming back to’.”

Chapter on Sainte-Croix describes the origins of the Acadian settlement in Nova Scotia.

Author David Hackett Fischer dedicates an entire chapter to the expedition that founded the Sainte-Croix colony, where the Acadian colony originated. The survivors of 1604-05 expedition were relocated to Nova Scotia.

Among the many references I’ve accumulated over the years, the one most easily accessible for readers to find, one that describes the historic Acadian precedence, is “Champlain’s Dream” by David Hackett Fischer. In the chapter about Sainte-Croix (p. 148-173), he wrote, “In the early months of 1604, the sieur de Mons began to organize an expedition. One of the first people he invited was Champlain who wrote, ‘the sieur de Mons asked if I would agree to make the voyage with him’?”

In fact, in 1604, the sieur de Mons expedition established the colony on St. Croix Island, in Calais Maine. Unfortunately, the colony failed due to the disastrous winter conditions during 1605, but the survivors were relocated, with help by the Passamaquoddy. They went on to develop the Acadian colony in Grand Pre, on what today is the Canadian Maritime Province of Nova Scotia.

It’s just my opinion, but the Acadian precedence over the British deserves to be recognized. These facts are documented, and the expulsion was illegal and immoral. Surely, the political interests that follow this issue in Great Britain will be ready to respond to the Société de l’Acadie du Nouveau-Brunswick report, when it is eventually published.

Juliana L'Heureux

About Juliana L'Heureux

Juliana L’Heureux is a free lance writer who publishes news, blogs and articles about Franco-Americans and the French culture. She has written about the culture in weekly and bi-weekly articles, for the past 27 years.